Nodal Radiation Doesn't Impact Early Breast Cancer Survival
(HealthDay News) — Some women who have surgery for early-stage breast cancer may benefit from additional radiation to nearby lymph nodes, although there is no clear advantage in overall survival, two new clinical trials suggest. The studies were published in the July 23 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Timothy Whelan, B.M., B.Ch., an oncologist at McMaster University and the Hamilton Health Sciences Juravinski Cancer Center in Canada, and colleagues studied 1,832 breast cancer patients who were all given standard therapy for early-stage breast cancer, including breast radiation. Half were randomly assigned to have node radiation, too. Most had one to three affected lymph nodes.
Over the next 10 years, 82 percent of women who received node radiation remained recurrence free -- versus 77 percent of women in the comparison group. About 8 percent of the node-radiation group developed lymphedema, and 1.4 percent had pneumonitis. The most common side effect -- dermatitis -- affected half of the women. After 10 years, 82 percent of study patients were still alive, regardless of whether they'd received node radiation.
The second study, of 4,004 European women, showed a similar pattern: Those who received node radiation had a somewhat lower risk of recurrence over 10 years; 72.1 percent remained free of breast cancer, versus 69.1 percent of the comparison group. However, there was no clear advantage in overall survival.